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Last month, a walrus was spotted in Orkney beach. This is the second time in five years that this type of mammal wandered in the UK. In 2013, a walrus, which was believed to be from a colony in Greenland, was also spotted in the same area.
Scotland is well-known for its diverse wildlife. Places like Knapdale Forest are popular destinations for wildlife enthusiasts. However, unlike the Golden Eagle and Scottish Wildcat, sightings of walruses are not common in Scotland. This is because these tusked mammals do not inhabit this area nor do they live nearby. In fact, the closest habitat to Orkney is a hundred miles away in the North Pole and Arctic Ocean.
This is a rare spectacle at Orkney which is known for its dolphins and porpoises. This is why, the walrus sighting attracted crowds of wildlife watchers at the North Ronaldsay, evening of March 8. The animal did not come ashore, but the following day, it did at Sanday. This further drew in more people including school kids who watched this large creature comfortably sleep on the rocky beach.
Believed to be a young male walrus, locals gave it the nickname “Wally”. This large, tusked mammal was initially seen close to the shore. According to reports, it was thought to be a whale at first, until it hauled out on the beach.
Walruses spend almost 70% of their lives in the water. They live in places with sea ice or on moving sheets of ice. Sometimes, in the absence of ice, they stay on rocky islands. These blubbery creatures rarely come ashore, only doing so to bear their young or rest.
It is unusual to see a solitary walrus since this type of mammal is very sociable. They usually travel in herds and even sunbathe in groups. These sea mammals can live for several weeks without food because of the blubber under their skin. They mainly feed on clams and fish.
The past years, conservationists have been sounding the alarm on walruses, specifically the Pacific walruses. Due to global warming, Arctic sea ice is rapidly disappearing and these tusked creatures are at risk of losing their habitat. Furthermore, their food supply is getting depleted because of ocean acidification.
Walrus photo by Smudge 9000